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News Volunteer Creates Pillows of Comfort for Patients of Hospice

By Tricia Schug

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For people in hospice care, comfort can come from the simplest of things — a kind smile, a gentle touch, or even a small pillow. Samaritan Pacific Hospice in Newport has a tradition of giving all patients in their care a hand-crafted “comfort pillow” upon admission. 

“Our patients have always been very appreciative of the comfort pillows,” said Theresa Karlik, director of the Home Health and Hospice Department at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital. “The pillows are small enough to tuck under an aching shoulder or a neck to relieve pressure, or they are a perfect size to just hug close for comfort.”

When Karlik needed volunteers to make the pillows she didn’t have to look far. Her mother, Glenda Karlik, a 20-year quilter and crafter, was up to the challenge and, for the past six years, has become the sole creator of the 12-inch square pillows. Glenda estimates that she has made a total of 1,200 during her tenure.

“This is a nice way for me to give back, doing something that not only fits with what I enjoy doing, but also doing it for a program I value,” she said. “We have had several family members use hospice services in other parts of the country and they have had good experiences with it. I believe in the philosophy of hospice — to help someone have a good death.”

Each of her pillows is hand-pieced into unique and colorful designs, often sewn from scrap quilt blocks, fabric given to her by friends or leftover bits from her other quilting projects. Her large sewing room is filled with neat stacks of colorful fabric — floral patterns for the former gardeners, sports fabric for the football fans, and something for everyone in between. “I just love playing with fabric,” she said, “and I try to create pillows that can connect with people’s interests.”

As she creates each pillow, Glenda reflects on the person who she imagines will receive it. 

“I’m not really a prayerful person, but I do think about the person and hope they have an easy death, and I hope their family will be able to let go,” she said. “I hope, in some way, this pillow brings them peace.”

A former auditor and business manager, Glenda finds that being creative gives her an energizing purpose to retirement.

“It helps me feel good about myself to be creative,” she said. “I like knowing I’m supporting others with this project. This pillow isn’t much — it’s just a pillow — but I know it makes a difference.”